JERUSALEM (Reuters) – Bezeq Israel Telecom said on Sunday it would soon double internet speeds to 200 megabits per second after receiving long-awaited approval from regulators.
Bezeq, Israel’s largest telecoms group, has long sought permission from the Communications Ministry to allow it to offer speeds of more than 100 Mbps but the regulator had rejected the request saying its view that Bezeq would not want to deploy a fibre optics network.
But the coronavirus outbreak showed that Israel’s infrastructure was not sufficient, with many parents complaining of network issues when multiple children were learning from home on Zoom and other video services.
“This reality sharpens the need for a high-quality and stable Internet infrastructure capable of delivering high browsing speeds,” said Bezeq CEO David Mizrahi.
Bezeq said it has invested tens of millions of shekels the past two years to upgrade its network to double internet surfing speeds, while also investing in a fibre network that it said can reach 1.5 million households.
Its main rival, cable company HOT, offers speeds of up to 500 Mbps while smaller rivals Cellcom and Partner Communications — Israel’s two largest mobile phone operators — are deploying fibre networks with speeds up to 1 gigabit per second.
Bezeq and the telecoms regulator have been at odds for years over a fibre network, with the regulator demanding Bezeq deploy in all of Israel, while Bezeq argued it was not financially viable to do so in some rural areas.
In recent months, the regulator has eased its demand to around 70%. Smaller rivals could bid for the business, while a fund using cash raised from the revenues of telecom firms would support the rollout in places Bezeq does not deploy.
Mizrahi said he hoped the government would complete regulation to allow it to launch its fibre network.
Reporting by Steven Scheer, editing by Louise Heavens